It was a big year for dining in Detroit with dozens of new restaurant and bar openings. Metro Detroit now has a few more restaurants serving ramen then it once did, several options for tiki drinks, and not one but two food halls. There were, of course, some closures as well including decades old spots like Sign of the Beefcarver in Dearborn, Majestic Cafe, and Knudsen’s Danish Bakery. The news can, at times, be unpredictable and it’s always wild looking back at the moments that really stood out to readers. Below, find 10 of Eater Detroit’s most popular stories in 2018 from in-depth neighborhood reports to holiday bar pop-ups.
The infamous Hooters on Big Beaver Road confirmed a new tenant in April. That information alone would have made for insanely shareable headline for reasons that don’t need to be spelled out. But the fact that the new Troy-based restaurant was helmed by the wildly popular Union Joints restaurant group — owners of hits like Vinsetta Garage and Honcho — made for an even bigger splash. Stories about Gran Castor (“big beaver” in Spanish) continued to inspire curiosity throughout its development and opening — particularly the preview of the design that incorporated the midcentury Hooters orange fireplace.
It’s always a disappointment when a longtime neighborhood restaurant closes and even more so when the business does so with little notice. Tipsters alerted Eater to an auction of 1917 American Bistro’s equipment just a few days into the new year. Former proprietor and chef Don Studvent never publicly addressed the reasons for the closure, but the restaurant was widely mourned on social media. Fortunately for the Avenue of Fashion strip, a new restaurant called Good Times on the Ave is slated to fill the space soon.
While the country fell in love with and then became saturated with food halls, Detroiters sat back and waited patiently for years for the arrival of their first one. Detroit Shipping Company underwent location changes, name changes, and frequent setbacks with zoning and permitting for years before making its debut in mid-July. The finished Cass Corridor food hall is comprised of 21 stacked shipping containers and features multiple bars, a stage, and, of course, several well-trafficked food stalls. Customers are still awaiting the full lineup to debut as complications with international partners resulted in some restaurants dropping out, but there’s still a lot to love including Bangkok 96 Street Food, Brujo Tacos & Tapas, Coop, and -320º Coffee & Creamery.
One of the wildest rides of 2018 was perhaps the drama over parking, construction, and restaurants in Royal Oak. First came the closure of Andiamo in July, whose owner Joe Vicari got into a war of words with Royal Oak’s mayor over whether traffic at his restaurant had declined due to a lack of city parking or due to changing consumer tastes. Then a group whose members had a bone to pick with the city sent out a misleading press release alleging that more businesses including Cantina Diablos, Red Fox English Pub, and Dixie Moon Saloon would not be renewing their leases due to the reduced number of parking spots in the downtown district. While the characterization of the closures was inaccurate, Red Fox and Diablos did close shortly after and were replaced by new businesses in partnership with a new owner. The drama continued into the fall with more closures (and several new openings, too).
This story focusing on the rapid changes happening in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood were part of a larger package from both Curbed and Eater city sites across the country exploring the intersection of money, development, and food. Once a major commercial district anchored by General Motors, New Center has faced decline since the mid-1990s. Now, fresh opportunities seem to be on the horizon for new businesses and ones that stuck it out.
In an attempt to head off voters in the 2018 midterm election, the Republican-held Michigan legislature developed an unprecedented plan to adopt and amend citizen initiatives for paid sick leave and a $12 minimum wage that would have gradually phased out the tipped minimum wage. The measures were approved in September and made a splash around the country. Then they were gutted in mid-December in a lame duck session.
It’s pretty. It’s pink. It’s got a massive glass chandelier, comfy couches, and a Parisian disco ball. It’s Candy Bar. The Siren Hotel developers ASH NYC came up with the look and feel for the downtown stunner and earned an Eater Award for design. The photo gallery of Candy Bar, which teased its opening in downtown, garnered a lot of reader attention in 2018 as did the making of its signature candy bars — a creation of Lady of the House pastry chef Monica Greer.
Even though it opened in December 2017, people couldn’t get enough of Ferndale’s new board game bar and axe-throwing venue. Perhaps Eater readers love to live dangerously. Perhaps they’re just dying for entertainment. Either way, the new spot that replaced Local Kitchen & Bar appears to have hit its target audience on Nine Mile — even as similar ventures received negative attention nationally.
Christmas may be over, but people in Detroit (and across the country) still cannot get enough of holiday bar pop-ups. National pop-up Miracle and its sidekick tiki bar Sippin’ Santa returned to Detroit after Thanksgiving and will stick around through New Year’s Eve for folks who want to sip kitchy drinks. Take a peek at the decorations inside the Park Bar.
In Detroit for a quick visit and want to taste some of the highlights of the city’s dining scene? Explore the Motor City’s food with this guide to a completely gut-busting 24 hours in Detroit. Pick up breakfast and see some sights before zooming out to lunch and a happy hour drink. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure buffet of deliciousness.
• All Year in Eater Coverage [ED]